Members of the GAAS interested in promoting diversity within the association have been meeting within the forum of the Diversity Roundtable once a year during the annual conference of the GAAS. The Diversity Roundtable discusses the question of how diversity is central to the concerns of the GAAS and how the association can strengthen its commitment to diversity.
Previous co-speakers of the Diversity Roundtable include Cedric Essi, Helen Gibson and Anne-Lena Oldehus.
The Diversity Roundtable has organized several events aimed at furthering diversity in the GAAS, including:
- The GAAS in 2030: Imagining Future Practices of Critical Diversity in American Studies. Online workshop hosted by the John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin October 12, 2020.
- Conference Program of the GAAS Special Conference “Diversity and/in the GAAS” at the BAA Amerikahaus, Munich, Oct 20-21, 2017: https://dgfa.de/events/special-conferences-and-symposia/2017-10-program-diversity-in-and-the-gaas-at-the-amerikahaus-in-munich/
Position Statement, 20/01/2021
In light of the recent events in Washington, D.C., we, as co-speakers of the Diversity Roundtable of the German Association for American Studies, would like to publicly condemn white supremacy in all forms. While the violence of January 6 and ongoing threats in anticipation of the presidential inauguration today are alarming, this violence is neither surprising nor new. We strive to respond to these events, white supremacist and fascist groups, and their media presence by centering a praxis of care, carefulness, and an understanding of the cultural embeddedness of white supremacist violence and our responses to it.
We would like to recognize that calls for punitive responses to the people and groups who breached the Capitol on January 6 will likely result in the strengthening of policies and praxes that unequally result in physical violence against and the limitation of the mobility and sovereignty of people of color. As Hoda Katebi, among others, has pointed out, although it may feel just to call those who breached the Capitol “terrorists,” such rhetoric strengthens “War on Terror” policies and ways of thinking, which primarily target people of African and Arab descent, as well as Muslims generally, on an international scale.
We are struck not only by the similarities between the development of mob cohesion on January 6 with the United States’ long legacy of repeated white mob violence, but also the resonances between these mobs and recent protests against government responses to the pandemic in Germany. These events remind us how entangled structural racism is with discourses of ableism and eugenics, anti-intellectualism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. We are particularly concerned by the apparent acceptability of anti-Asian racism in Germany and elsewhere over the past year.
As we turn our gaze back to Washington DC today, we wish to urge American legislators and the incoming administration to commit to open discourse about the legacy of anti-Black racism in the United States specifically. The stark differences between the state response to Black Lives Matter protests and the premeditated violence of January 6 indicate once again how profoundly local and national American social structures support a white supremacist status quo. We echo the calls of numerous activists and politicians in demanding that members of the United States government establish and proactively support a truth and reconciliation commission devoted to the legacy of slavery and consistent state and federal refusals to entertain redress and reparations for the descendants of the generations of enslaved Africans who are largely responsible for the nation’s wealth today. We urge you to consider providing monetary support to organizations like the National African American Reparations Commission and to appeal to envoys to the US from your home countries, as well as friends and colleagues who are American citizens, to contact legislators in support of House Resolution 40, “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”
Drafting this statement has reminded us that our understanding of power structures in the United States and beyond is limited by our embodied experiences, the material we choose to study, and the media with which we choose to engage. We still have much to learn and would be grateful for your help in expanding our and our community’s list of organizations to support and methods of public intervention at this time, as well as resources for further engagement in antifascist and anti-racist praxis and thought.
Abigail Fagan, Chang Liu, and Dorothee Marx
Position Statement, 04/06/2020
We, the speakers of the Diversity Roundtable of the German Association for American Studies, want to take this moment to publicly condemn the recent wave of white supremacist violence and the ongoing systemic racism in the United States as well as in Germany. We want to express our condolences to the victims’ loved ones, and to affirm our support for liberation movements such as Black Lives Matter, at home and abroad.
Scholars like Patricia Hill Collins remind us of the necessity to always speak out against racist violence. Its pervasiveness can be overwhelming and produce silence by which such violence, in turn, can become neglected, invisible, and implicitly legitimated over time in hegemonic discourse (Hill Collins, “It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Race, Gender, and Nation” 66).
At the same time, we heed Sara Ahmed’s warning that mere declarations of anti-racist commitment and solidarity are not necessarily performative speech acts that translate into concrete actions or effects in and beyond our research and institutional lives (Ahmed, “Declarations of Whiteness”). What opportunities for individual and collective anti-racist action does this moment of global protest present? We urge you to consider actions such as donating to organizations that are actively combatting anti-Black violence in the United States and in Germany. We are also grateful to receive your ideas on further modes of support and public intervention that we can undertake as members of the Diversity Roundtable and the larger German Association for American Studies.
As academics from a wide range of scholarly traditions within American Studies, we have versatile capacities to unearth intersecting oppressive structures such as sexism, racism, ableism, and anti-queerness. We would like to encourage one another to acknowledge that there are many ways to oppose anti-Blackness.
Cedric Essi, Helen Gibson, Anna-Lena Oldehus